MPs get debate warning

MPs get debate warning

No legal immunity for oath-gaffe session

MPs will not be protected by customary parliamentary immunity during the general debate on Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's incomplete oath recital, chief government whip Wirach Ratanasate said yesterday.

Since all parties concerned want the session to be held openly instead of behind closed doors, lawmakers should be warned they are not immune to being sued over remarks deemed to offend the monarchy, he said.

According to Mr Wirach, Gen Prayut and Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam are two key government figures expected to answer opposition questions concerning the oath-taking during the swearing-in of the new cabinet.

Gen Prayut stands accused of omitting the final sentence of Section 161 of the charter, which requires the oath-taker to uphold and abide by the constitution, in the July 16 ceremony.

The general debate was sought by the opposition after Gen Prayut failed to clarify the issue in the House of Representatives twice. The debate will allow MPs to question and make proposals to cabinet ministers but not take a vote on the matter.

Earlier, Mr Wissanu said a closed a parliamentary session would be permissible if the issue for debate concerned national security or was highly sensitive. But the opposition insisted on an open session since it would be representing the public in questioning the prime minister about the issue.

Mr Wissanu yesterday declined to commit himself to an open session.

"It depends on their questions. If they are sensitive, I may ask for a closed session at that point. If there's nothing sensitive and it is what the public should know, the meeting should be public.

"We've seen closed sessions which are totally normal. There are criteria [for these] and if the issue doesn't meet the criteria, there is no need for a closed session. It's no big deal, and it's something we can leave until then," he said.

Meanwhile, on the Democrat Party's push for charter change, Mr Wissanu said it remains to be seen if the cabinet will today discuss constitutional amendments.

The Democrat Party, a key coalition partner, last week submitted a motion to the House calling for the appointment of an ad-hoc committee to study charter amendments.

Mr Wissanu said that if the issue came before the cabinet today, it will decide how the charter rewrite study should be approached. As a general practice, government whips bring to the cabinet any issues raised in the House.

Mr Wirach also said the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) will today discuss the proposal to study charter amendments, which the leaders of the government coalition parties are expected to debate soon.

Deputy Senate Speaker Gen Singsuek Singprai yesterday insisted that a public referendum is necessary for any charter amendments.

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